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Coronavirus: Financial support and how your business can access it

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) is having a significant impact on economic activity globally. The Irish government has introduced a series of measures to provide financial support for businesses for the duration of the pandemic.

The first package was unveiled on 9 March 2020 and valued at more than €3bn. As the full extent of coronavirus is becoming apparent, the government has announced several additional supports and enhanced measures for businesses – the latest on April 8 2020.

In this article, we look at the financial measures available to help your business and how you can access them. We cover the following:

SBCI COVID-19 Working Capital Loan Scheme​

Future Growth Loan Scheme​

SME Credit Guarantee Scheme​

Microfinance Ireland COVID-10 Business Loan​

Sustaining Enterprise Fund​

Business Financial Planning Grant​

LEAN Business Continuity Voucher​

COVID-19 Online Retail Scheme​

Business Continuity Voucher​

Bord Bia COVID Response Marketing Support Package​

Revenue measures​

Commercial rates deferral​

Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme​

COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment​

Illness Benefit for COVID-19 Absences​

What is it?

The scheme operated by the state-backed Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland through participating banks was increased on 8 April 2020 from €200m to €450m.

It aims to help small and medium-sized businesses to adapt to challenges presented by coronavirus. The funds must be used for future working capital and to finance changes needed to adapt to the current economic environment due to coronavirus.

Who is eligible?

Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and small midcap companies excluding those operating in primary agriculture and aquaculture sector and those in financial difficulties.

What it covers?

One to three-year loans from €25,000 to €1.5m at reduced interest rates up to 4% – the first €500,000 of which are unsecured. Term and amount approved are dependent on the purpose of the loan.

Businesses have an option of availing of interest-only repayments for six months. The scheme operates from March 2020 to March 2021, or until it has been fully subscribed.

How your business can access it

You can apply for the scheme on the SBCI website. Once your application has been approved, you can submit a loan application to one of the participating lenders: AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank.

What is it?

The scheme is operated by the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) and supported by the Department of Business Enterprise and Innovation and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and backed by the European Investment Fund was set up in June 2019 to assist companies with challenges posed by Brexit.

It has been allocated an additional €200m in response to coronavirus.

Who is eligible?

Viable micro, small and medium-sized enterprises and small mid-cap enterprises to businesses in the primary agriculture (farmers) and seafood sectors to support long-term strategic investment.

What it covers?

Loan amounts are from €100,000 to a maximum of €3m per applicant. Terms are 8 to 10 years; interest rates are from 3.5% to 4.5%. Participating lenders are AIB, Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank and KBC.

How your business can access it

The application process is in two steps. Firstly, you need to confirm your eligibility with the SBCI before making an application to one of the participating lenders.

Once your application has been assessed and approved, you’ll be issued with an eligibility reference number allowing you to apply for a loan with one of the participating lenders.

What is it?

The scheme run by the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) has been repurposed to help SMEs impacted by coronavirus.

It provides an 80% guarantee for qualifying loans to participating lenders: AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank.

Who is eligible?

SMEs as well as franchises and co-operatives. Your business must be viable but facing one of three barriers to lending:

  • Insufficient collateral.
  • It operates in a perceived high-risk sector or market.
  • It needs refinancing due to its current or previous lender exiting the Irish market.

What it covers?

The scheme facilitates loans between €10,000 up to €1m and terms up to seven years.

How your business can access it

You can apply for a loan under the scheme through one of the participating banks: AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank.

What is it?

The government initiative has been expanded to help qualifying businesses through this period of uncertainty with the maximum loan amount increased from €25,000 to €50,000.

Who is eligible?

Any business – sole trader, partnership or limited company – with fewer than 10 full-time employees and an annual turnover of up to €2m.

Your business must be affected negatively by coronavirus resulting in a loss of 15% of actual or projected turnover or profit and you must be unable to access financing through a bank or commercial lender.

What it covers

Loans are from €5,000 to €50,000 – typical terms up to three years with reduced interest rates – 4.5% APR for applications made through your Local Enterprise Office and 5.5% APR for direct applications.

Qualifying businesses have no interest or repayments for six months.

How your business can access it

Applications can be made through your Local Enterprise Office, by registering at microfinanceIreland.ie or calling (01) 260 1007 to speak to a loan adviser.

What is it?

This fund, announced on 8 April 2020, allocates €180m to support vulnerable but viable firms. Enterprise Ireland will provide repayable advances of up to €800,000 as agreed with the European Union under new State Aid rules.

Who is eligible?

Companies with 10 or more employees engaged in manufacturing and internationally traded services that have been impacted by at least 15% in actual or projected turnover or profit, and/or have a significant increase in costs as a result of coronavirus.

The fund is open to SMEs and large companies. As an SME, you must have applied for funding from a financial institution, including, where appropriate, through the SBCI COVID-19 Working Capital Loan or Future Growth Loan Schemes.

Companies operating in the primary agricultural, fishery or aquaculture sectors or coal and steel sector are ineligible for the fund.

What it covers?

Under the scheme, eligible companies receive repayable advances of up to €800,000.

How your business can access it

Further information about the fund can be obtained from your development adviser at Enterprise Ireland or from the COVID-19 Business Response Unit at [email protected].

You will be required to submit a Business Sustainment Plan as part of your funding application.

What is it?

This support from Enterprise Ireland was announced on 8 April 2020 and is aimed at businesses in the manufacturing and internationally traded services to develop a financial plan.

Who is eligible?

Companies operating in the manufacturing or internationally traded services sector that employ 10 or more full-time employees.

What it covers?

The grant is worth up to €5,000 to allow eligible companies to hire an approved financial consultant and develop a robust financial plan.

The plan should include preparation of documentation needed to apply for external finance from banks and other financial providers.

How your business can access it

Applications can be made online. For more information, contact your development adviser or Enterprise Ireland’s COVID-19 Business Response Unit at [email protected]

What is it?

The voucher scheme operated by Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland aims to assist companies with accessing expert advice to review and enhance operations and identify key measures needed to ensure continued viability.

Who is eligible?

Small, medium and large companies that are clients of Enterprise Ireland or Údarás na Gaeltachta. This includes high potential startups.

What it covers

Qualifying companies receive a €2,500 voucher to engage training or advisory services from approved providers related to the continued operation of the business.

Services include crisis management and development of safe working practices, managing subcontractors and supply.

How your business can access it

Applications are assessed on a case by case basis. You should contact your agency adviser before submitting an application via Enterprise Ireland’s online application system.

What is it?

The scheme administered by Enterprise Ireland will be open to retailers with more than 10 employees. The competitive fund is worth up to €2m and aims to support in developing the online offerings of companies in the Irish retail sector.

Who is eligible?

Retail companies with more than 10 employees that already have an online presence. Ineligible companies include those involved in the primary production of agricultural products, fishery and aquaculture, hospitality and leisure services, publicans and gaming sectors.

What it covers?

Grants ranging from €10,000 to €40,000 will be awarded to eligible companies up to 80% of project costs.

How your business can access it

You can apply through via the Enterprise Ireland online application system during the call open dates, which are to be announced.

What is it?

Local Enterprise Offices are administering the voucher scheme aimed at SMEs to cover consultancy costs to assist them during the coronavirus outbreak.

Who is eligible?

Businesses employing up to 50 people across all sectors.

What it covers?

Up to €2,500 in consultancy costs. It can be used by companies, including sole traders to develop short and long-term strategies in response to coronavirus.

How your business can access it

Contact your Local Enterprise Office to find out more about the voucher scheme and how you can apply.

What is it?

The state agency dedicated to promoting Irish food, drink and horticulture has expanded its marketing grants scheme in response to the challenges that companies in these sectors are facing as a result of coronavirus.

Who is eligible?

Producers in the food, drink and horticulture sectors (both edible and amenity) that are client companies of Bord Bia. Companies must have a turnover between €100,000 and €25m in 2019.

In addition, companies with a turnover that’s more than €3.5million must be participating in the Origin Green programme and be up to date with annual reviews. 

What it covers?

The scheme supports 70% of eligible expenditure on marketing activities including website design, consultancy costs, development of online sales, and participation in trade fairs.

The support is subject to a maximum amount and covers activities carried out from the date of your application until 31 December 2020.

How your business can access it

Applications forms can be downloaded from the Bord Bia website – and must be received by email by 16 April 2020.

If you previously applied under the MAP and SCP programmes in January 2020, you’ll be able to avail of the higher reimbursement rate of 70%, as well as amending or introducing new activities.

There is no need to reapply; previous applicants will be contacted directly.

What is it?

Revenue has introduced a range of measures to assist companies affected by coronavirus, including the elimination of penalties for late filing of VAT and suspended debt enforcement.

Who is eligible?

All businesses that are experiencing trading difficulties as a result of coronavirus.

What it covers?

Revenue has suspended interest on late payments for January/February VAT and for employers’ PAYE liabilities in respect of February and March. It has also suspended debt enforcement activities. All businesses will keep their tax clearance status.

Additionally, for pharmacies and businesses related to the supply of medicines, all products will be given a green routing through customs to enable expedient imports and supply chain.

Review of the Relevant Contract Tax (RCT) that was due to take place in March was suspended to prevent subcontractors from having to pay more at this time.

On 8 April 2020, Revenue introduced a relief from VAT and import duties on goods such as PPE and other medical products used to combat coronavirus, which will remain until 31 July 2020.

How your business can access it

To access the relief on import taxes for pandemic goods, you can apply online.

What is it?

Local authorities have agreed to defer commercial rates from businesses that are most affected by coronavirus.

Who is eligible?

SMEs in the retail, hospitality, childcare and leisure sectors are eligible for the commercial rates deferral.

What it covers?

If your business is affected, you can defer payment of rates to your local authority until the end of May 2020.

How your business can access it

If your business is not in one of the identified sectors, the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government recommends that any company that has had to temporarily close or significantly reduce their operations during the coronavirus outbreak should contact their local authority to discuss deferring their rates payment.

What is it?

A wage subsidy that helps companies that have experienced significant negative disruption due to coronavirus to support them in paying their employees.

This payment replaces the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection’s Employer Refund Scheme, which was announced on 15 March 2020.

Who is eligible?

Employers across all sectors excluding public service and non-commercial semi-state that have experienced at least a 25% decline in turnover, which has resulted in an inability to pay wages.

The scheme is designed to help employers keep staff on their payroll. Employees must have been on your company’s payroll in February 2020.

What it covers?

Under the scheme, the government pays up to 70% of net income per employee up to a maximum weekly amount of €410, which is equivalent to €500 per week before tax.

The subsidy payment will not be subject to income tax or universal social charge (USC). Additionally, the payment will be exempt from employee and employer PRSI.

How your business can access it

Revenue is administering the scheme, which is expected to run for 12 weeks from 26 March 2020.

If you received funds under the previous scheme operated by DEASP, you don’t need to reapply – Revenue will contact you directly to determine if your business meets the new requirements.

You are encouraged to top up the payment to bring your employees’ income to 100% where possible. You can register for the scheme on the Revenue website through your ROS account.

What is it?

A payment to those who are employed or self-employed and who have lost their job or income due to the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Who is eligible?

Any self-employed or employed person aged between 18 and 66 who has lost their job or income due to coronavirus on or after 13 March 2020.

What it covers?

A weekly flat-rate payment of €350 – increased from €203 on 24 March 2020 – is available for the duration of the pandemic. Only those who have become fully unemployed are eligible.

The Short Term Work Support Payment is for employees who have had their weekly working hours reduced to three days or less.

How you can access it

You can apply online at myWelfare.ie through the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection website. Applications can also be made by post but these will take longer to process.

What is it?

When a worker is told to self-isolate by a doctor or the HSE due to being a possible source of infection or has been diagnosed with coronavirus by a doctor, they can apply for an enhanced Illness Benefit payment of €350 per week.

The usual rate of €203 was increased in March 2020.

Who is eligible?

Any employed or self-employed person who is confined to their home or a medical facility having been told to self-isolate by a doctor due to contact with an infected person or who has a positive coronavirus test result.

What it covers?

The €350 payment is paid for a maximum of two weeks in the case of self-isolation. If the person has received a positive diagnosis with coronavirus, they will receive the payment for 10 weeks.

How you can access it

An Illness Benefit claim can be submitted online or by post and you must provide a medical certification from your GP or relevant HSE official documentation.

Conclusion on financial support for businesses

This is a challenging time for businesses, especially SMEs that are struggling with maintaining sufficient income to retain working capital, cash flow and pay wages and other bills.

However, the good news is there is a range of financial supports in place to help you to keep your business running. It’s worth taking the time to find out if your business is eligible for the funding supports available.

As the situation evolves, the Irish government may introduce additional supports, so it’s worth keeping up to date with the latest developments.

Coronavirus and your business

We’ve gathered information and resources to help navigate this situation. You can also find out about support for Sage solutions, including enabling home working.

Find out more

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